Bennett praises decision to tighten Origin eligibility rules

THE Australian Rugby League Commission last night announced a tightening of State of Origin eligibility rules, drawing praise from Knights coach and Origin legend Wayne Bennett.

The ARLC announced that from next year no player will be eligible to play for NSW or Queensland unless he has lived in that state before the age of 13, or unless he is the son of an Origin player.

He must also be eligible to play for Australia.

Bennett applauded the change, saying it would protect the fabric of the iconic annual series between NSW and Queensland.

There have been some farcical examples of both states bending the rules to suit themselves throughout Origin’s 32-year history. Kempsey-born Bowraville product Greg Inglis has become a star performer for Queensland, who have won a record seven straight series, and New Zealand-born James Tamou represented the Blues this year.

Former Australian coaches Bennett and Bob Fulton and current Kangaroos mentor Tim Sheens were among those whose opinions were sought by the ARLC when changing the rule.

Bennett is the most capped coach in Queensland Origin history, having guided the Maroons 22 times in seven series (1986-88; 1998; 2001-03) for four series wins. 

‘‘It’s important that we all understand what makes Origin so great. It’s what we’ve all bought into and believed – state against state, mate against mate – so if that’s our belief, then it’s important there is some basis around that,’’ Bennett told the Newcastle Herald last night.

‘‘The reason it is what it is ... if we don’t preserve that, and all of a sudden in a decade’s time we have a lot of people playing in those teams that have no roots in the states, then all the things that have made it great and as popular as it is just aren’t going to be there any more.

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